Cohabitation and Children

Cohabitation and Children

 In August, the National Marriage Foundation released a contentious study suggesting that cohabiting couples pose a grave threat to the welfare of children.

The practice of an unmarried adult couple living together without ever legally formalizing the relationship is far from new, but has become increasingly common. However, this study argues cohabitation is prone to instability, resulting in more break-ups than marriage.
Many disagree with the central thesis of the study, claiming instead that the stability of a household, as it relates to children, is really about the quality of the adults’ relationship, not the status of that relationship. For instance, Ann Schranz of the Alternatives to Marriage Project believes that a poor relationship between the adults is really what can prove damaging for children, whether or not the parents are married.As in most things, there seems to be a bit of truth on all sides. The emotional, psychological, and legal bonds of marriage may keep married couples together longer than couples who are cohabiting. There may be something to be said for the stability of marriage and its impact on a child’s development. On the other hand, a stable but toxic relationship among parents is certainly not better for the children, whether they are married or just living together.
Lauren Sandler brings up an interesting point in a piece about the study she wrote for Slate: the structure of a child’s home might have implications outside the home. Peers might ostracize children of a nontraditional family.  They may not understand family structures different from their own. This may be true of all sorts of family structures including cohabitation, single parent homes, half-siblings or step-siblings living in the same home.
Whatever the merits of the study on cohabitation’s effects on child development, discussions focusing on how to help children develop in healthy environments can only lead to positive results.
What Are your thoughts? We would love to here from you.
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